Moving house is no Fun in the Gulf
It was a really frustrating week. As my lease was running out on my apartment in Discovery Gardens, and as water periodically poured through the ceilings every time it rained, I thought it was time to move on. I managed to find for myself a brand new apartment in JLT, virtually the same size for AED10,000 cheaper, and so signed on the dotted line.
Now when one moves house one obviously has to have electricity and water working cos otherwise it's a tad inconvenient. So I set off for Dewa (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority). They have offices in various parts of Dubai and I decided to try my luck with the one at Wasel Road, it seeming to be the nearest. Well, it might be the nearest, but it certainly ain't easy to find and I drove round and round in circles having no luck.
Brainwave! Use my GPS! (Oh why didn't I think of that before!) It doesn't list one in Wasel, but I find there is a DEWA near the Trade Centre, and as I am near there by now I drive round and round trying to find somewhere to park. I find somewhere 10 mins walk away and trot back in the midday sun, only to discover that all that is left is a DEWA substation and that the office has migrated to the new premises in Wasel I couldn't originally find.
OK. There's another one near the Creek. I head off there. I find a DEWA power station. And a sign saying Customer Service. Yippee! Sign is old. Customer Service isn't here. Eeppiy! Don't worry sir. Drive around the block and you will find one there. I drive around the block and find a (newer) sign saying customer service. No parking. I drive further round the block and park once more in the power station entrance from where I had just come and walk back.
I take a number, I fill out a form, I hand over a sheaf of documents showing the landlord, the owner, my passport, my ID, the landlord's passport, the trade licence, the rental contract and the company registration form.
Emirati woman shakes her head. Goes to speak to another man and comes back to say I don't have all the documents. You need a Certificate of Good Character for the renter. A what????? Oh he will know. Just go to your landlord and ask for the certificate. I fume. The rental office is the other side of Dubai.
I drive there but can find nowhere nearby to park and have to walk 15 minutes to the office. An Indian woman greets me. She knows what they are talking about, amazingly. You don't need this, she tells me. It is for landlord registrations, not for the person who is renting the apartment. But no worries. If they want it we can give you one.
I head back to DEWA. I present the bigger sheaf to an Emirati guy. Tsk tsk tsk. I am so sorry, he says to me looking anything but sorry. You need a site plan of the apartment. Why? You need one. What on earth for? You need one. I look at the small print. Landlords should supply a site plan, it reads. I am not a landlord. No sir, but how do we know you have rented this apartment from a bona fide real estate office? Err... because it says so on the contract? Oh no sir. The company stamp doesn't specifically say real estate. So you need a site plan.
It is by now 4.30 in the afternoon. I have been playing this stupid game since 10.30. I go back to the real estate office, and the owner comes out to sympathise with me. They are incompetent, he tells me. I can see that, but I still need electricity. We have let 17 apartments in your tower block and no one else has had this problem. That's not much comfort to me.
Owner has a brain wave. Don't go back to this DEWA office but go to Wasel Road office. We always use that one and there are never any problems. I tell him I can't find Wasel DEWA. It's a new building. Everyone has difficulty finding it. Here's a map.
I thank him and with tears in my eyes set off into the sunset. I find Wasel DEWA. I take a number. I wait 11 minutes and then present the bundle of documents I started with 7 hours earlier. Stamp, plonk, plonk, stamp, shukran, 1100 dirhams please. I pay the deposit (I'll inshallah get my deposit for the present apartment back in about two weeks) and am told connection will be within two hours. Bliss. But I am so shattered I cry off my appointments for the evening and decide instead on an early night.
Dawn breaks. Filled with happy thoughts from the previous night I head off to the new apartment. No electricity. No water. It's been 16 hours since I paid the deposit. I try phoning customer service. It rings... and rings.... and rings.... and in the end I find another number listed on the bill marked emergencies. Is this an emergency? I decide it is. I ring the number. It is answered straight away.
Oh tsk tsk tsk sir, so very sorry you do not have a connection. Yes, we always pride ourselves that a connection can be made within two hours. Yes sir, tsk tsk, you should certainly be connected by now. I will lodge a complaint for you. But I don't want a complaint lodged, I just want my electricity switched on. Don't worry sir. It will be switched on before 6pm. I guarantee it. But it's now only 10am. What's with the eight hours delay? I thought you said it would take no more than two hours? Yes sir. Two hours, but I guarantee you will have it before 6pm. His logic works. The electricity comes on at 5.50.
Du (telecom) meanwhile are having staff problems. I go to their main office in Media City and get given a number. And wait,,, and wait,,, and wait.... and finally give up after 45 minutes and head off up to my office for a pow wow and a drink.
I return to Du 30 mins later and find my original number is called five mins after that. This is obviously the way to do business with Du. (I hand my newly given waiting ticket to an attractive lass who was beside herself that she would have to wait over an hour.)
The Du guy is polite - makes a change. (Oh no, Silly me. He's not an Emirati.) He asks when I would like the line moved across. Office hours only I'm afraid. What happens with people who have to work for their living? You must take a day off. I cannot. I am working 12 hour days all this week. Finally he agrees to schedule in an appointment for next Saturday. This means I will have about 2-3 days without telecoms, but as I can use the connection at work until Thursday it means that hopefully I will only have one day without internet. We shake hands and I walk out exhausted.
Moving day arrives. Or rather moving evening arrives. Because I am working in an exhibition every day this week and don’t get back until 8pm, my evenings this week are guaranteed to be full of excitement.
First exciting thing to happen is that Pakistani movers whom I have booked to do the moving fail to turn up. I decide to move the easy stuff like tables and chairs and bookcase, together with box loads of accumulated junk, myself in my trusty Kia Sportage. It may be one of the most boring cars ever built, but at least it gets me and my stuff from A to B. By midnight I am exhausted. It’s up at 6am the next morning too, for this exhibition.
The next evening I decide to move the sofas. The floors in the old apartment block are polished stone, so I am able to slide the three-piece to the lift, where I spend five minutes trying to get it semi-vertically into the lift while the buzzer complaining that the lift doors are jammed open threatens to wake the entire neighbourhood. A similar situation ensues on the ground floor as I attempt to extricate sofa and myself from the jaws of the metal tomb.
I drag the sofa to the rear entrance where there is a ramp. An attractive Filipina in high heels and mini skirt offers to help and I wonder if finally my luck has changed. She holds the door open and watches while a red faced Brit heaves and struggles on his own with a large sofa through the narrow orifice. Maybe my luck hasn’t changed after all…
I squeeze two thirds of the sofa into the back of the Kia and with the tail gate wide open and with warning lights flashing, make my way gingerly to the new apartment block, hoping not to get stopped by the Dubai traffic cops. For once lady luck is on my side. No cops. Not even the sight of the sofa sliding out onto the road behind me.
Half an hour later, after a well deserved can of beer, I repeat the process with the 2-seater sofa. After the previous one it is a piece of cake, even given the fact that no well-healed Filipina is there to watch.
Evening number three is even easier. The fridge can be pushed gently at an angle, given that it has small wheels on its rear side. It leaves a puddle in the back of the Kia, like a dog out of control, but apart from that it moves effortlessly into its new home.
The bed is even easier still. I have an inflatable which plugs into the mains whereby a pump inflates or deflates it to the required hardness. For the first time I try deflating it – button number 2 on the handset – and enjoy lying on it as the mattress collapses all around me. Oh, the little pleasures in life! (What do they say about small boys with small toys?) How many others can lay claim to carrying one’s (double) bed in a small case with one hand?
So finally I am moved in to my new apartment, a stupendous view of a huge building site immediately outside my windows. The hot water in bathroom #2 doesn’t work; the sink in bathroom #1 leaks; and there are only two electric sockets in the entire kitchen. (Hmmm… let me see now… fridge, microwave, toaster, kettle, grill, rice cooker…..)
But life carries on, and finally everything is right with the world ... at least for another year until the lease once again runs out…..